Jessica Chastain Oscars Getty Images Entertainment/Kevin Winter
By Amy Phillips Penn

“For the first time, you can actually see the losers turn green.” — Bob Hope (1965)

“Every time an Oscar is given out, an agent gets his wings.” — Kathy Bates (2003)

Welcome to the Academy/Grammy/Golden Globe/pre/post and anything for an award show: from a saturation of selfies, to “oops, my breast says hello.”

The Academy Awards splatter humor along with fashion, flirting its way into how much you, you, you that you can show. The only actual approved nudity in the Oscars was when a man who was not named Oscar, posed for the statue. We assume it was offstage.

I once interviewed a man who was a fashion designer. We met up again and then again when we found ourselves walking to work on the same route, and soon became friends. He introduced me to his wife, Susan, and I liked her immediately.

We had dinner as couples, and his wife and I spent time together. She invited me to the movies, and shyly mentioned that she was a member of the academy. I knew that she had done some acting, and that her family was involved in the biz side of show biz, but the impression that she made was of being a meticulously caring mother to her two sons. She baked cookies and worried about her boys separating when the eldest one went to college. They were “story book close.”

Our relationship flowed in a pre-Google kind of way. I had no idea of her on-screen accomplishments, but was drawn to her warmth and modesty.

Years later, I watched the movie Imitation of Life. The young woman who played Sarah Jane was beyond extraordinary, as Academy Award nominations and Golden Globe success attest.

The actress was my friend, Susan. I was wowed and over-wowed, not simply because of her powerful performance, but of her modesty in not flaunting her accolades.

In kindergarten, or thereabout, one of my friends had a mother who was an actress. She was classically Scandinavian blonde, with a stage name to match, and a resume with two marriages that made her “power couple” famous.

Her daughter and I went skating at Rockefeller Center with our parents.

My friend’s mother didn’t skate with us. Her actor’s contract nixed any sports that might be risky business. She was a valuable, insurable commodity in her own right.

This was an ice cold blast of news to my young and growing encyclopedia of glam careers. My friend’s mother was immediately set apart in her own glass booth. In spite of the lure of Disney and all the glamour in my childlike eyes, I actually felt sorry for her because she couldn’t skate with us.

Anything goes in the universe of 21st century awards.

Can we really imagine Katharine Hepburn with her décolletage gone awry; Shirley Temple quasi flashing the audience; or even Donald Duck quacking a go at the x-rated? The envelope, puh-lease!


“The Oscar is the most valuable, but least expensive, item of worldwide public relations
ever invented by any industry.” 
— Frank Capra (1936)

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